Opa! Greek food, culture celebrated at Berks County festival

Submitted photo Kefi, the youth dance group at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Reading, Pa., will perform dances from Greece while wearing traditional costumes throughout the three-day Greek Food Bazaar.

The largest ethnic food festival in Berks County returns for its 42nd year on Oct. 19-20-21 at Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church.

Thousands of visitors are expected to attend the Greek Food Bazaar to enjoy authentic Greek food and pastry and live music and dancing.

The food is prepared and cooked on the premises by church members using family recipes handed down through generations. All food items are available to eat-in in the church social hall or take-out.

The most popular dish is Athenian-style chicken, which comes in a platter with a side of Pastitsio or rice pilaf, Greek-style string beans, a Greek salad, roll and butter for $12. You can substitute Plaki (fresh fish fillet baked with vegetables, herbs and wine) or Souvlaki (chunks of marinated pork) on the platter meal.

There are also a la carte items such Gyro (marinated beef and lamb slices) and Souvlaki (pork shis-ke-bob) sandwiches; Calamari (squid) cooked in tomatoes and wine; Moussaka (eggplant casserole); Arni Psito (roast lamb); and Pastitsio (layered Greek pasta, seasoned with chopped beef topped with bechamel.

A variety of imported Greek wines and spirits, including Ouzo, an anise-flavored liqueur, will also be served. And be sure to try Mythos, a popular beer imported from Greece.

While enjoying a meal in the main dining hall, visitors will be treated to Greek and American music by Stavros & Maria, a brother-sister duo who are also church members.

The churchs youth dance group, Kefi, will perform traditional Greek dances throughout the weekend wearing colorful costumes.

After a hearty meal, theres plenty to see and do on the church grounds. An Agora (Greek market) offers packaged Greek foods and prepared dishes to go. The Kafenio (Greek coffee house) features fresh-brewed Greek-style coffee, rice pudding and pastries in a relaxed atmosphere.

Visitors can also shop for original artwork, gold jewelry and items imported from Greece in various gift rooms.

Festival-goers can also view one of the largest collections of Byzantine iconography in the United States. Guided tours of the church interior are provided every the hour.

A popular stop for all visitors is the pastry room, where you can pick between popular treats like Baklava (almonds, butter, and honey layered in flaky pastry), Teelikta (walnuts, butter and honey rolled in flaky pastry); Kourabiethes (butter cookies topped with powdered sugar), Koulourakia (Greek twisted butter cookie) and Galaktobouriko (a filo pastry filled with custard and moistened with honey syrup). If you cant decide, take a sampler box home with you.

Another Greek delicacy is Loukoumathes (puffed honey balls), a warm dough pastry topped with honey, cinnamon and chopped nuts.

Bazaar hours are noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Admission and parking are free. The event is held rain or shine.

Additional parking is available across the street at Berks Catholic High School.

The church is located at 1001 E. Wyomissing Blvd., about one mile from Business Route 222 South (also known as Lancaster Avenue). Turn onto Hancock Boulevard between the two car dealerships and stay on the road until you see the church on the right.

For more information, call the church office at 610-374-7511 or visit the churchs website, www.stsconstantinehelen.org